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Euclides (fl. 3rd century BC)

De gli elementi di Euclide libri quindici... Tradotti ... da M. Federico Commandino... Urbino, Domenico Frisolino, 1575

€ 43.000
Commandino Euclid, printed on blue paper - A rare, luxury copy of a scientific book
Euclides (fl. 3rd century BC). De gli elementi di Euclide libri quindici... Tradotti ... da M. Federico Commandino.... Urbino, Domenico Frisolino, 1575

Folio (306x211 mm). Printed on blue paper. Collation: *2, **4, ***2, A-Z4, AA-ZZ4, AAa-ZZz4, AAAa2. [8], 278 leaves. In this copy fol. TT2 bound after fol. VV2. Italic and roman type. Ten-line animated initials at the beginning of each Book. Contemporary gilt-tooled limp vellum. Covers within gilt border, fleuron at the centre. Smooth spine, decorated with gilt tools, inked title. Gilt edges. Minor loss to the spine. A very fine copy. A few corrections in an early hand.

Provenance: 'Di Casa Doni' (early ownership inscription on the front pastedown; on the title-page 'Casa Donj comprato dal [?]).

An extraordinary copy printed on blue paper of the first edition of the Italian translation of Euclids' Elements. The translator and commentator is the humanist and mathematician from Urbino Federico Commandino (1509-1575). Luxury copies of sixteenth-century scientific books are unusual and were surely intended for presentation.

In 1565 Commandino was visited by English philosopher, mathematician, and astrologer John Dee (1527-1608; see no. 91), who gave him a manuscript translation into Latin of an Arabic work related to Euclid's De divisionibus. Commandino published this Latin version – De superficierum divisionibus liber Machometo Bagdedino ascriptus – in Pesaro in 1570, adding a short treatise of his own to condense and generalize the discussion of this work. Two years later, at the request of Francesco Maria II della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, Commandino translated Euclid's Elements into Latin and published it along with an extensive commentary at Pesaro in 1572.

Then, in 1575, for those of his countrymen who did not know Latin, Commandino supervised a translation into Italian of the Elements together with his commentary, which he entrusted to some of his students. The De gli elementi di Euclide libri quinque is the first book printed in Urbino in the sixteenth century, and the publication is dedicated – as was the Latin version of 1572 – to his patron Francesco Maria della Rovere. The volume was issued by Domenico Frisolino, whom Commandino had probably called to Urbino for this purpose, Frisolino having established the first printing house in the city in the last months of 1574. The press was located in his home, as attested by the colophon of the 1575 Euclides: 'IN VRBINO IN CASA DI FEDERICO COMMANDINO, CON LICENTIA DEI SVPERIORI. MDLXXV'.

For the Italian Euclides, Frisolino re-used the blocks for the diagrams and initials first employed by Camillo Franceschini in the Latin edition of 1572, with the exception of the title-border block, which was ultimately not given to him. On 13 November 1574, Commandino drew up a contract for buying paper with Melchiorre Silvestri and Magister Pietro Bramante, who were active in the paper mill of Fermignano, a small town near Urbino where the manufacture of paper had begun in 1411. The Fermignano paper mill was owned by the Montefeltros.

The present copy is exceptionally printed on blue paper, and was certainly destined for a distinguished recipient or patron. The Harvard College Library preserves a copy of Commandino's Elementorum libri XV of 1572 likewise printed on blue paper, suggesting both copies may have been printed on blue paper produced by the Fermignano paper mill.

Adams E-995; STC Italian 239; L. Moranti, L'arte tipografica in Urbino (1493-1800), Firenze 1967, no. 4; Riccardi I, 363. Steck, p. 25; Thomas-Stanford 42; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 151.